Before leaving on my road trip, my colleague and partner in the Horse as Teacher book series, Kathy Pike, had asked if I would stand in for her shamanic teacher in her workshop in June in Carbondale, Colorado. I had agreed, thinking it would be on my way back home. However, when I found out my brother and his band, Snydley Whiplash, were having a 25th anniversary reunion for the 4th of July, I wanted to be there for the performance. I also wanted to go back to Arkansas to meet with more of the women and see if the land was truly drawing me to be there.
In the end, I decided to make a dash to Colorado without stopping along the way for sightseeing. After teaching at the workshop, I would see where the road led me. At that point, I would either go back to South Dakota or head west from there.
Kathy’s workshop was the 3rd of 4 held over a year’s time for her apprenticeship program, teaching students to become Equine Facilitated Learning and Coaching practitioners and facilitators. This week-long session was focused on the internal work the participants needed to do to become a practitioner. Kathy has a shamanic colleague who had been there the first two sessions, but couldn’t teach in this one.
I arrived the two days before the start to help Kathy prepare. We went to pick up her assistant Reggie from the airport the night I arrived. Reggie is a therapist who decided to follow her path of working with horses and after living 60+ years in New York, moved to Texas just before meeting Kathy and starting to work as her assistant. Holding space for all of the horses, participants, and other people involved is a big effort. We were also all three staying in Kathy’s small casita, so being able to work well together was critical. The three of us had a great time, balancing each other throughout the week.
The next morning we drove the 30 miles to the ranch where the workshop was being held. The drive out was spectacular, taking us into a long, gradually narrowing valley, the road winding along a tree-lined river. The pastures were filled with horses as we weaved our way to the far end of the valley. The ranch sat below a beautiful view of a show-capped mountain, the water flowing past dandelion-filled pastures, the horses grazing contentedly in the bright sun. This was a little piece of heaven.
The first three days of the week would be an experiential workshop. In that portion, there would be one person who was not part of the year-long program. The rest would finish the week, but Blaine was only there for the first session. Kathy had explained on the way that he was the husband of a woman who would be taking the program the next year, and he was there to experience some of what Tracy would explore. She had also explained that he was a minister and wasn’t sure how the Shamanic piece of the workshop would be for him.
That question was answered immediately when we met. It was an instant, deep connection. As we walked to the stand of trees by the small waterfall from the pond to the creek that I had chosen for our teaching, he started peppering me with questions. Blaine is a handsome, curious man with a deep strength and gentleness that is perfectly suited for the work he does. I definitely felt that we had had many conversations in many lifetimes.
The other participants were also very curious and connected to the shamanic teachings I shared with them. I taught them to journey to find their power animals and a spirit guide for the work they would be doing during the next few days. Then they journeyed to those spirits to find out what they needed to change or remove from their path in order to move forward. I also explained the medicine wheel, making sacred space, and creating rituals and daily practices, no matter how that looks for each person. There seemed to be a number of breakthroughs in the teaching session, and much more as the week progressed.
The next day, I took the other half of the group to the teaching space. Again, there were profound learnings that they shared with me. The setting, the subject, and the participants, as well as the facilitators made the week a very powerful grounding experience. But most of all were the horses. They are most amazing beings.